Former Gay Rights Foe Fights RFRA in Georgia

Former Gay Rights Foe Fights RFRA in Georgia February 24, 2015

For those who follow the battle for LGBT rights, the name Mike Bowers should sound familiar. His name is attached to the Supreme Court case Bowers v Hardwick, a ruling that upheld state anti-sodomy laws (until being struck down in 2003 in Lawrence v Texas). But now Bowers is working against the passage of a RFRA law in Georgia because it targets LGBT people.

Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, a man with a long history of opposing the rights of LGBT people, will be siding with the LGBT community this week in announcing his opposition to religious liberty legislation pending in the state legislature that he calls “deeply troubling.”

Modeled in part on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) but described as providing a “license to discriminate” by opponents because of their broad applicability outside of government, legislation of this type has been introduced in several states over the past year, including in the last session of Georgia’s legislature.

“The obvious unstated purpose of the proposed RFRA is to authorize discrimination against disfavored groups,” Bowers, who was attorney general in the state for 16 years, has determined of the Georgia legislation. A portion of his analysis — concluding that the legislation’s “potential intended and unintended consequences are alarming” — was shared with BuzzFeed News on Sunday.

Those working with Bowers on the issue told BuzzFeed News that he is expected to hold a news conference discussing his analysis of the legislation at the Capitol on Tuesday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday on Bowers’ plan to oppose the legislation, noting that he had been hired by Georgia Equality to do the analysis of the legislation…

Bowers has, though, determined that the RFRA legislation would provide an “excuse to practice invidious discrimination,” noting the suspect timing of the legislation: “The timing of Georgia’s legislation — and similar legislation in other states — coincides with the rapid legalization of gay marriage across the country, the United States Supreme Court’s 2013 decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the 2014 Supreme Court ruling that religious freedom of expression excused compliance with mandatory coverage for contraception in employee health insurance programs.”

Bowers also has concluded that “if enacted, the proposed [measures] will permit everyone to become a law unto themselves in terms of deciding what laws they will or will not obey, based on whatever religious tenets they may profess or create at any given time.”

Welcome to the right side, Mr. Bowers.

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